A Powerful Antidote to Product-centricity

Niraj Dawar argues that most companies still look for competitive advantage where it used to be: through activities related to products and new product creation. But today’s advantage comes from interactions of a different sort—those you have with your customers. Companies that recognize and move on this shift win.

Business has been run on the industrial model for over 250 years now. Scale and efficiency of the means of production have defined this model: the central question of strategy has been “how much more of this stuff can we sell?” Tilt argues that three shifts are redefining business: (1) the primary locus of costs has shifted out of the factory; it now resides in downstream activities such as customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, and customer retention. (2) The sources of customer value — what the customer is willing to pay a premium for — have also shifted downstream, toward the services and information that surround the product. And (3) The sources of competitive advantage have also shifted to marketplace activities. The central question for strategy should be “what else do our customers need/want?” Starting from that simple question, Tilt helps managers reformulate strategy to capture the opportunities presented by these shift.

Who is the book for?

Who is the book for?

Tilt is for managers and companies in three types of industries:

  • Those that are obsessed with their products, often at the cost of their customers: tech, pharma, and start-ups of all types.
  • Those that find their products have been commoditized, and where they are keen to find new forms of competitive advantage: chemicals, traditional materials, and many consumer goods.
  • Firms seeking to move up the value curve by adding an understanding of customers to their product offering.

And here’s what advance readers are saying

Chris Barrow
Chris Barrow Chief Strategy Officer, Heineken N.V.
An essential read for all current and aspiring C-level executives.”
Vivek Mehra
Vivek Mehra Partner, August Capital
…TILT is essential reading for entrepreneurs and executives building successful businesses, not just better products.”

Russ Winer
Russ Winer William H. Joyce Professor of Marketing Chair, Stern School of Business, New York University
In this highly readable and important book, Niraj Dawar offers marketing managers a roadmap for…“tilting” …from product-centric to customer-centric… success.”

What is this book about?

What is this book about?

Tilt is about the shifting center of gravity within companies. Three shifts are occurring simultaneously.

  • First, the fixed costs that used to reside in the upstream infrastructure, the factories and supply chains, are now moving downstream – they now reside in customer acquisition, satisfaction and retention.
  • Second, the differential value that the customer is willing to pay for, to come back for, or to pay a premium for resides in the downstream – what customers buy is practically the same across sellers, how they buy it is different, and that how is the reason for premium prices and loyalty.
  • Finally, the sources of competitive advantage used to reside in the upstream, in big factories and better products. Today, they reside in customer relationships and marketplace information.

Is this new? Aren't companies already customer-centric?

Is this new? Aren’t companies already customer-centric?

The shift away from an industrial, upstream model toward a customer-centric one has been under way for some time now. Yet, consider that we still rely on better products as a key source of competitive advantage. Think of the systematic processes companies have honed to develop better products – the well-established, step-by-step processes defined by stage-gates and milestones that guide pharmaceutical firms in developing a new drug molecule, or that automobile companies use in designing a new car model. But when it comes to systematic processes for creating new forms of value in the downstream, in customer interactions, there is often no R&D lab, no R&D manager, no R&D budget, and most importantly, no R&D process. Tilt guides managers toward a systematic way of thinking about developing new forms of value in the downstream. It helps that in the last few years, we have seen an explosion of innovation in the downstream – in new ways of creating value for customers through information and interactions. Tilt builds frameworks that help managers make sense of these new developments.


Does TILT focus on a specific sector of the economy or a specific industry?

Does TILT focus on a specific sector of the economy or a specific industry?

Tilt draws examples from a wide variety of industries. Its lessons and frameworks are applicable across a all industries. But it is particularly relevant to managers in industries that want to break out of their product obsession, those that are trying to break out of commodity traps, and those that are trying to move up the value chain.


Is TILT a technical book for a specialized audience?

Is TILT a technical book for a specialized audience?

Tilt has been written to be accessible to anybody interested in business. Jargon, when it is used, is carefully explained.


What are the key lessons from TILT?

What are the key lessons from TILT?

TILT offers managers a guide to shift the center of gravity of their business toward the marketplace. After reading TILT, managers can set up systematic processes for creating new forms of value in their downstream activities. TILT teaches you how to build lasting competitive advantage in the marketplace.